Provincial Grand Lodge of Dorset

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For Province P0060 - Province of Dorset.

Tribute - Bruce Graham Clarke

Bruce Graham Clarke, one of the last surviving crew members of the XE Midget Submarines used in Operation Foil in 1945, has passed away aged 95 years in Dorset. A Public Servant, dedicated Freemason and talented artist, Bruce won the Distinguished Service Cross for his role in the mission to cut the undersea telephone cables connecting Singapore, Saigon, Hong Kong and Tokyo. The successful operation forced the Japanese to use radio and leave themselves open to message interception.

Bruce was born in Edinburgh on the 9 September 1922 into a military family; his father was a lieutenant in the Royal Navy serving on HMS Pembroke. Educated at the Tower House Prep and University College Schools in London, Bruce volunteered into the Royal Navy In 1941.

Bruce served initially aboard Escort Destroyers, escorting convoys in the North Sea and in the Mediterranean. He later saw service as part of Operation Torch, the invasion of Northwest Africa, where he witnessed the sinking of the French fleet.

In 1943 Bruce volunteered for service aboard the Royal Navy's Midget Submarines and after training in Scotland was commissioned. In July and August of 1945 Bruce was one of the crew of Midget Submarine XE.5 which took part in operation 'FOIL', to cut the Hong-Kong to Singapore telegraph cable west of Lamma Island running under Hong Kong Harbour.

In the book 'Above us the waves' by Charles Warren and James Benson the mission is recalled '... Hong Kong was supposed to be blessed with clear water. It was most galling, therefore, for the crew of XE.5 to arrive in the defended waters of Hong Kong after a very rough trip… and for the best part of four days ... the two divers, Clarke and Jarvis, were working up to their waists in mud…'

In his report of the operation, the commanding officer, Lieutenant H.P. Westmacott, wrote, 'Whilst trying to clear the grapnel, S/Lt Clark had caught his finger in the cutter, cut it very deeply and fractured the bone. It is impossible to praise too highly the courage and fortitude which enabled him to make his entry into the craft in this condition. Had he not done so, apart from becoming a prisoner, it is probable that the operation would have had to be abandoned for fear of being compromised.'

A month later the war ended and Bruce was posted to Minden in East Germany and put in command as Physical and Recreational Training officer of Allied troops. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his part in Operation Foil on the 17 November 1945 and subsequently demobilised in 1946.

After brief spells working in India and Africa, Bruce joined the Overseas Civil Service and through a series of promotions and secondments formed a successful career in Kenya. In 1955 Bruce married Joan in Nakuru, Kenya. The family moved to Aden in 1957; this posting for Bruce included a period as Labour Commissioner. In 1962, Bruce retired from Her Majesty's Overseas Civil Service and after a three-year contract as Personnel Manager for the East African Power & Light Company in Tanganyika, Bruce returned to the UK, settling in Boscombe in Dorset in 1967. For a brief period, he and his wife Joan bought and let property but latterly restored antique china, porcelain and furniture, until Joan's death in 1982 at the age of sixty.

In retirement, he returned to his hobby of oil painting; he was a very talented painter and produced some fine copies of the old masters. A long-time Freemason, Bruce was a member of Winston Churchill's Lodge in London and in 1986 he joined the Lodge of Meridian in Dorset and was Chaplain of the Lodge for many years.

For 16 years Bruce lived with his daughter Sue, her husband Kim and their family until he moved to a flat in a block for older people where he remained for the next nine years until his death on the 7 December 2017. During his last years, Bruce suffered from ill-health though he never complained and rarely allowed himself to become disheartened by his condition. Bruce had a natural dignity and poise which he maintained until the end of his life.

Bruce Graham Clarke, DSC was born on 9 September 1922 and died on 7 December 2017 aged 95 years old.

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